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Children and Household Wealth
by John Karl Scholz and Ananth Seshadri
WP 2007-158

This paper examines the effects of children on consumption and wealth. To anchor intuition, we develop implications using a simple permanent income model with no uncertainty and complete markets. But this framework does not come close to matching the distribution of existing wealth. We therefore examine the effects of children using a rich, augmented life-cycle model, and using a life-cycle model with endogenous fertility. We find that children have a large effect on household’s net worth and consequently are an important factor in understanding the wealth distribution. The effects of children are much larger than the effects of asset tests associated with cash and near-cash transfers, given earnings realizations and the social security system experienced by households in the original HRS cohort.  We also show that fertility and credit constraints interact in ways that significantly affect wealth accumulation.

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